Fall 2020 Graduate Courses

Graduate Courses in Language and Literature
Academic Year 2020-2021, Semester I

All courses carry 4 credits, unless otherwise indicated.

Fall 2020 Graduate Courses that Fulfill Degree Requirements

For Ph.D. students: while one course may fit multiple categories, it can only be used to satisfy one distribution requirement.

Courses with a (T) count for the Theory Requirement

Theory, Critical Method, History of Criticism: EN 792 A1; EN 604 A1
Medieval Literature – 1660, or History of English Language: EN 726 A1 (T); EN 675 A1
Literature in English, 1660-1860: See Spring 2021
Literature in English 1860-present: EN 785 A1 (T); EN 743 A1; EN 745 A1 (T); EN 783 A1; EN 682 A1 (T); EN 688 A1; EN 693 A1 (T); EN 537 A1; EN546; EN 569 A1 (T)


Graduate Seminars


States of Exception: Seventeenth-Century Women’s Writing and the Media Revolution of the English Civil Wars

In his recent work identifying “civil war as the fundamental threshold of politicization in the West,” Giorgio Agamben turns to seventeenth-century England to develop his on-going theory of the state of exception.  Drawing on this work, as well as gender and queer theory, this class will attempt to rethink the writing of seventeenth-century English women and its afterlives.  In particular, we will consider the importance of the violence of the English civil wars to these women’s writing, as well as how their inclusion in the canon of “women’s writing” obscured the centrality of violence to their work.  Issues of unjust imprisonment, the threat of sexual assault, and unprecedented executions inspired these writers to counter these states of exception by creating their own, like Lucy Hutchinson’s “pious fraud” or Margaret Cavendish’s army of Amazons.  This class will explore the work of Hutchinson and Cavendish, as well as that of Philips, Halkett, Astell, the female petitioners and a host of other female writers, resituating Agamben’s analysis of the English civil war via Hobbes in the context of a much more diverse set of voices.    During this wartime period, the dual technologies of militarism (the development of siege warfare, etc.) and print culture (the “invention of the newspaper”) enabled a reorganization of the body and the domestic that problematizes readings of the politicized domestic, the public sphere, or the “private” as a place of resistance.  This course will provide students both a foundation in the literary and political landscape of the seventeenth-century, as well as a point of entry into broader debates about state power, gender, violence, and the way that media revolutions and militarism move together.  (This class can be taken for the WGS Graduate Certificate.) Fulfills the Medieval Literature – 1660 or Theory requirement.

EN726 A1 Murphy
R 12:30 – 3:15P


Narrative and Literary Conceptions of Time

This interdisciplinary course pairs narrative theory with the history of science and technology to explore how literary texts play with time. How do writers from Charles Dickens to Virginia Woolf jolt their readers out of everyday temporal scales, setting millions of years or the lighting of candles next to the span of human life? How do development such as the discovery of dinosaurs, the invention of telegraphs, and the birth of moving pictures affect the structure of poems and novels? How do writers create the feeling of motio in their readers or make them aware of parallel perceptual worlds that ordinarily remain invisible? Authors include Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells, and Marcel Proust, as well as a selection of classic theory of the novel and narratological texts. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present requirement.

EN743 A1 Henchman
T 3:30 – 4:45P


Being Wrong in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

What does it mean to be wrong? How do we know when we’re wrong? What keeps us from acknowledging that we’re wrong? How might we convince others that they’re wrong? How do we live with their wrongness and our own? Such questions have philosophical, psychological, political, and ethical dimensions that trouble and enrich nineteenth-century American literature. Most immediately, this course will address the theme of being wrong in works by Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and (a British exception) George Eliot. We will read these authors in a variety of contexts—intellectual history (philosophical skepticism, pragmatism, Freud, the philosophy of science); political history (particularly the slavery debate); and a sampling of contemporary interdisciplinary scholarship (behavioral economics; cognitive psychology; forgiveness theory; the replication crisis in the sciences). More metacritically, we will broach methodological questions about evidence and belief. What kinds of claims can we make for standards of truth? Is there such a thing as a wrong interpretation? If not—or if so—what might this mean for literary critics? Does literature and literary studies have a distinctive role in addressing wrongness? Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present or Theory requirement.

EN745 A1 Lee
T 12:30 – 3:15P


Modernist Gothic

The course concentrates on a body of narrative texts (mostly prose but also selectively poetry and drama) of the twentieth century with a marked Gothic, dark literary dimension. Readings extend from The Secret Agent through Endgame, Beloved, and stories by Angela Carter, along with works by Wilde, Anderson, Eliot, Woolf, Rhys, Barnes, Faulkner, Capote, and Ellison. We will consider them with attention to nineteenth-century precursors, contemporary (with respect to the time of the writing and now) emanations, and conceptual framings from Arendt (on evil), Foucault (on Las Meninas and the duality of the human), and Levi-Strauss (on myth) through Berger and Derrida (on animals). Questioning the determinate, hierarchical distinction between popular and elite writing, the course considers ways in which a significant number of important modernist texts and later ones influenced by modernism share attitudes, structures, and stylistic tendencies with Gothic writings of the long nineteenth century (usually treated as genre fiction, that is, as non-literary).

Literature and art’s Gothic dimensions or Gothic inflections in the twentieth century are widespread, various in form, and distinctive as well as memorable in their extension and recasting (under changed technological and social circumstances) of structures and motifs conventionally associated with earlier Gothic writing. As a consequence, the relation between nineteenth and twentieth-century Gothic is not a straightforward continuity; that is, no more linear than Gothic and modernist narratives. The networks of affiliations and influences among nineteenth and twentieth-century writers who produce dark narratives are multiple and diverse. Conrad influences many writers who follow him but was influenced by Dostoevsky, who also had a significant effect on Woolf and Faulkner. Wilde is in Eliot’s background, along with Conrad, and Barnes responds to both Wilde and Eliot. Mary Shelley as well as Dostoevsky influenced Faulkner. And so on. The multiple networks and the mazelike qualities of twentieth-century Gothic pose challenges for describing it adequately in the various forms of expressionistic art and film, surrealism, horror narratives, science fiction and speculative fiction, and Southern Gothic. At the same time, the diversity of modernist Gothic instances, forms, and networks of affiliation allows considerable latitude for our speculative efforts to trace the dark threads (and threats) in modernist Gothic. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present requirement.

EN783 A1 Riquelme
W 11:15A – 1:45P


Queer Theory: Power, Pleasure, and Performance

What is the relationship between power and pleasure, and how might their intersection be performed? How can we think about the political and ethical dimensions of pleasure and embodiment, and the co-constitution of the personal and the political? How might we explore these relationships through aesthetics both on the page and the stage? This graduate seminar explores contemporary theorizations of queerness, power, and performance, principally focused on questions of subject formation, interpellation, minoritization, and power relations within post-structuralism, Marxism, ethnic studies, and queer theory. Central theorists to this course include Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Hortense Spillers, Gloria Anzaldúa, José Esteban Muñoz, and Petrus Liu, among others. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present or Theory requirement.

 EN785 A1 Rivera
M 2:30 – 5:15P


Introduction to Recent Critical Theory and Method

This seminar offers a selective introductory survey of representative schools and methods of contemporary literary study.  The content of the course varies annually, but there is always an effort to survey influential current practices and recent developments in the discipline, with some attention to their historical emergence.  Students are not expected to have an extensive background in literary theory or the history of criticism, and the seminar welcomes participants from other fields of graduate study.  The purpose of the course is to provide graduate students with an overview of contemporary literary theory as it contributes to scholarly practices in our discipline.

The course is team-taught, with most of its presenters faculty in the Department of English.  Participating faculty each conduct one session, and are responsible for selecting readings and offering paper topics on their subjects.  The course convener attends all sessions and serves as liaison for arranging access to readings, managing submission of written work, and coordinating grading.  The list of topics and roster of faculty vary year-to-year.  Topics in Fall 2019 included Structuralism and Post-structuralism; Marxism; Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt School; Film Studies; Foucault and New Historicism; Science and Technology Studies; Performance Theory; Genre; Post-Colonial Studies; Theories of the Book and Material Culture; Gender Theory; and Disability Studies. Fulfills the graduate requirement in Theory, Critical Method, History of Criticism requirement.

EN792 A1 Matthews
R 3:30 – 6:15P


Undergraduate Courses that May Be Taken for Graduate Credit

Historical Criticism 1

Survey of major discussions of literature and aesthetics from ancient Greece to early twentieth-century European and American figures. Authors may include Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Philip Sidney, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Wordsworth, Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, W.E.B. DuBois. Themes include art’s relation to truth, ethics, and politics; competing ideas of interpretation; art’s psychological and affective dimensions; the nature of aesthetic judgment; distinctions between the beautiful and the sublime.  Effective Fall 2019, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Aesthetic Exploration. Fulfills the Theory requirement.

EN604 A1 Chodat
TR 3:30 – 4:45PM


Critical Studies in Literature and Gender

Topic for Fall 2020: Early Modern Women Authors.

The rise of humanism in early modern Europe marked one of the most dramatic watersheds in western history, as long-standing social and ideological conventions underwent profound change. Although feminist scholars have questioned the extent to which women enjoyed access to or benefitted from such cultural innovation, all recognize the importance of the literary work that women of the period produced. Through a survey of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century women’s writing across national, generic, and class boundaries, our course examines more closely their achievements: from Christine de Pizan’s groundbreaking allegory The Book of the City of Ladies to the multivalent fictions of Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptameron, from the erotic lyrics of Gaspara Stampa and the Italian courtesan poets to St. Teresa of Ávila’s spiritual autobiography, from the political rhetoric and correspondence of England’s Queen Elizabeth I to the epistolary and religious poems of her countrywomen Isabella Whitney and Aemilia Lanyer. Although our chief focus will remain on the way period constructions of gender inflect modes of literary expression, we will also glance towards other art forms through which women of the time fashioned “voices,” such as needlework and the book arts. Throughout, our discussions will attend to the historical settings and intellectual climates—both nurturing and hostile—that these figures reflected and addressed. Fulfills the Medieval Literature – 1660 requirement.

EN675 A1 Martin
TR 11:00AM – 12:15PM


Critical Studies in Modern Literature

Topic for Fall 2020: Approaches to the Postcolonial Novel.

Approaches to the Postcolonial Novel: The modern world is more confusing and complicated than ever. International fiction provides us with powerful ways of grasping it. This course introduces students to exciting ways of reading stories about love, greed, fidelity, honor, and violence from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. We will learn about the diverse and complex backgrounds of authors and their fictional characters, and we will sharpen our critical approaches to the works of authors such as V. S. Naipaul, Vivek Shanbhag, Tayeb Salih, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Daniyal Muenudin. The aim of this class is to enable students to think in sophisticated and informed ways about issues in literature and history today. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present or Theory requirement.

EN682 A1 Krishnan
TR 11:00AM – 12:15PM


Critical Studies in African-American Literature

TBD. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present requirement.

EN688 A1 Staff
TR 12:30 – 1:45PM


Critical Studies in Literary Topics

Topic for Fall 2020: Experimental Translational Practices and Translingual Traces in Art, Writing, and Performance.

This course works to expand the concept of ‘translation’ in art, writing, and performance in the last century, with a strong focus on the present. It examines a number of translational techniques (be they from one language to another, one medium to another, or incorporating other forms of research, appropriation, citation, reference and work with source materials)—asking about the political and ethical potential (or pitfalls) of such practices along the way. Some of the artists, authors, and materials we will cover include: Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee, Carolee Schneemann’s Meat Joy, Anne Carson’s Nay Rather, M. Nourbese Philip’s Zong!, Andrea Brady, ‘The Book of the City of Ladies’ (audio recording and text), Jacques Derrida’s Monolingualism of the Other, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s ‘The Politics of Translation’, Coco Fusco’s A Room of One’s Own (lecture performance), Cecilia Vicuña’s quipu works and videos, and numerous others. The course will be complemented by class trips to poetry readings and performances, class visits from writers and translators, and will incorporate a number of creative exercises, and the opportunity to publish an anthology of experimental essays and translations. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present or Theory requirement.

EN693 A1 Seita
TR 9:30 – 10:45AM


Readings for Writers: Literary Nonfiction

Reading and writing seminar for students interested in literary nonfiction, a wide-ranging, sometimes controversial genre in which writers use techniques associated with fiction and poetry to make meaning of facts. This course explores literary nonfiction with an emphasis on personal essays and memoirs. How do facets of identity (race, gender, sexuality, disability, nationality, religion) shape how writers describe their world, especially people, places, and things? Participants will read and analyze published writing, with attention to strategies authors use to write their lives. The learning goals of this course are to become better readers and practitioners of the craft of life writing. Everyone will read and respond to published and drafted writing and everyone will explore a variety of topics and ways of crafting their own literary nonfiction or life writing voice. Published writers on the syllabus may include Rich Cohen, Edwidge Danticat, Joan Didion, Leslie Jamison, Amy Tan, Jesmyn Ward, Virginia Woolf. In addition to assorted personal essays, the course includes these books, either personal essay collections or memoirs or autofiction:

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Emily Bernard, Black is the Body

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place

Claudia Rankine, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely

Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

EN512 A1 Bernstein
W 2:30 – 5:15PM


Black Thought: Literary and Cultural Criticism in the African Diaspora

An introduction to literary and/or cultural thinking in African-America and the Black Diaspora. The course focuses on historical trends, critical themes, and characteristics of this work and assesses its relationship to broader political contexts, social movements and cultural transformations. Also offered as CAS AA 591. Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present requirement.

EN537 A1 Chude-Sokei
TR 12:30 – 1:45PM


Teaching American Literature

Focused on teaching American literature at the high school level, the course aims to provide students with a broad knowledge base in American literary history, model deeper learning and teaching of selected texts, address theoretical questions in English Language Arts pedagogy, and introduce practical classroom skills. In addition to studying diverse works of American fiction, poetry, drama, and autobiography from the perspective of literary criticism, the course will address issues of course design, skill development, curricular planning, and assessment. The class will be team-taught by Prof. Christina Dobbs (SED) and Prof. Maurice Lee (English Dept.). Assignments include short writing exercises, collaborative projects, oral presentations, assessment design, curriculum evaluation, and a literary-critical essay. Also offered as SED EN 538. This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: The Individual and Community, Teamwork/Collaboration Fulfills the Literature in English 1860 – Present requirement.

EN538 A1 Lee
TR 11:00AM – 12:15PM


The Modern American Novel

Our course will examine representative works by significant American novelists published between 1900 and 1950. Our goal will be to understand how various American writers of this period responded to the extreme changes identified with modernity. How did novelists imagine the social, economic, political, intellectual, and artistic transformations of the first half of the last century? How did authors reimagine expressive styles and narrative methods to engage reconceptualizations of human behavior; theories of race and culture; definitions of gender; understandings of individual consciousness, perception, and comprehension; the organization of society; the relations of labor, wealth, and consumption; attitudes toward the environment; modern ethics; etc.? We’ll be interested in looking at relations between the artist, the individual work, audience, and historical contexts in order to appreciate how novels represent society and address matters of interest to communities of readers. We’ll also ask how these expectations condition artists’ desires to express their individual sensibilities. We’ll study major developments in the genre of the novel during this time, including the emergence of technically experimental modernist style and form, and innovations in realism. We’ll note some of the effects film had on modern literature. We’ll consider questions about conflicting senses of modern national identity, regional distinctiveness, women’s enfranchisement, race relations and ethnicity, the predominance of urban life, the crisis of capitalism during the Great Depression, class relations, and the trauma of two world wars. Because of the present urgency of addressing racism and racial conflict in the US, our course this semester will center on works by principal American novelists that explore questions of race in the first half of the twentieth century, that confirm what W. E. B. Du Bois declared in in 1903 in the opening lines of The Souls of Black Folk: “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.” What does it mean to approach modern American fiction from the standpoint of the nation’s and the West’s long history of racism? In what ways does national modernity rest on a foundation of global racial exploitation? How does the problem of the color line structure the economic, social, and cultural transformations we understand as “the modern,” and how does fiction of the period explore the centrality of racism and devise imaginative responses to it.

Authors this semester will include James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Willa Cather, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison

EN546 A1 Matthews

TR 11:00AM – 12:15PM


Film and Media Theory

Over a century into its history, film and its moving image descendants have become deeply ingrained into the fabric of our lives. Everywhere we turn, we are surrounded by strange hybrid versions of the cinema: from the ads in the subway to the ubiquitous presence of surveillance cameras recording our movements, and from the ocean of unedited videos uploaded by friends and family to the industrial products of Hollywood (and beyond).

This class will be devoted to understanding the meaning and consequences of our saturation in a world of moving images, a world of cinema. What is at stake when we render the world as an image? How do photographic and cinematic images differ from other forms of image-making (digital or televisual)? What does it mean to be a spectator (or to encounter images as spectacle rather than as narrative)? What kinds of political and ideological stances are entailed in viewing the world (or in being put on display) in cinematic terms? How has the development of digital technologies affected our relationship to film history?

There is a long and rich tradition of film and media theory that is concerned with elucidating not only how we answer these questions, but how we frame such questions in the first place. This course is an advanced introduction to film and media theory as a mode of inquiry. We will read some of the major works representing significant movements in film, photography, and digital theory from the early part of the 20th century up to our contemporary moment. We will also consider films, in their own right, as theoretical experiments in perception. Also offered as CAS CI 512.  This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Writing-Intensive, and Research and Information Literacy.  Fulfills the Concepts and Methods of Literary Studies requirement.

EN569 A1 Foltz
TR 2:00 – 3:15PM